Betty White Estate Remembers Her Sweet Moment With Ed Asner & ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ Director

by Jennifer Shea

No doubt about it, Betty White was a legend. And her estate is not letting fans forget it.

In a new Instagram post, the estate shared a sweet photo of White with her late Mary Tyler Moore Show co-star Ed Asner and Jay Sandrich, the late former director of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls.

“How about these three legends?!?” White’s estate captioned the pic. “Betty with Ed Asner and Jay Sandrich – director of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and responsible for suggesting Betty play Rose on GG instead of Blanche.”

Betty White Credited Sandrich for Her Emmy-Winning Role on The Golden Girls

On The Golden Girls, White earned an Emmy Award for her portrayal of the sweet but ditzy Rose Nylund. The role was quite a departure from her worldly, catty character, Sue Ann Nivens, on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And White credited Sandrich with the stroke of casting genius that landed her the part of Rose.

White had in fact initially auditioned to play Blanche on The Golden Girls. But Sandrich thought that man-hungry Blanche was too similar to Sue Ann. So he gave that role to Rue McClanahan instead and gave White the somewhat “amorphous” character of Rose.

In a 2010 interview with the Television Academy Foundation, White recalled how the casting went down and how Sandrich helped her flesh out her new character.

“Well [director] Jay [Sandrich] in his wisdom, bless his dear heart, said, ‘Look, if Betty plays another man-hungry neighborhood nymphomaniac, no matter how differently she tries to play it, they’re gonna equate it with Sue Ann and think she’s just doing the same thing. Let’s switch them,’” White said then.

“I didn’t have a clue as to Rose,” she added. “She was one of those amorphous characters. And again, Jay, he just gave me the character in two lines. He said, ‘She’s totally naïve.’ She turned out to be terminally naïve. She took every word as the surface meaning… So the girls could say terrible things to her, but the words all sounded fine, so she got along great.”

Watch Betty White discuss Sandrich, Sue Ann and Rose here:

White, Asner Were Evenly Matched on The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Meanwhile, on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, White’s character Sue Ann was always in hot pursuit of Asner’s character, Lou Grant. She hit on him constantly in what would probably be described as sexual harassment these days. In fact, Sue Ann was the only character on the show who could throw Lou off his stride.

But Asner reportedly enjoyed those scenes with White, as he told Glamour at White’s 90th birthday party. Asked what his favorite episodes with White had been, Asner responded: “When I slept with her. Oh, and the one where three of us go to her house to try her vibrating circular bed and Ted adjusts his hat in the mirror above the bed. I loved that.”

Both acting talents are no longer with us, but their legacies live on – both through re-runs of their iconic TV shows and through their charity work. Asner co-founded the Ed Asner Family Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to helping neurodivergent and special needs families in the Los Angeles area. White, who served on the boards of numerous animal charities and donated generously during her life, inspired the Betty White Challenge, which raised millions for animal charities on what would have been White’s 100th birthday.